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Thoreau’s Opinions as Expressed in Walden …. “Most men…are so occupied with the…coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them” (6). “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion” (7). “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” (7).

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Thoreau’s Opinions as Expressed in Walden…

“Most men…are so occupied with the…coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them” (6).

“Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion” (7).

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” (7).

“All change is a miracle to contemplate” (9).

“None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of…voluntary poverty” (10).

“I think that it cannot be maintained that dressing has in this or any country risen to the dignity of art” (15).

“A taste for the beautiful is most cultivated out of doors” (21).



1. thrifty management; frugality in the expenditure or consumption of money, materials, etc.

2. an act or means of thrifty saving; a saving: He achieved a small economy by walking to work instead of taking a bus.

3. the management of the resources of a community, country, etc., especially with a view to its productivity.



1. an interchange of goods or commodities, especially on a large scale between different countries (foreign commerce) or between different parts of the same country (domestic commerce); trade; business.

2. social relations, especially the exchange of views, attitudes, etc.

commentary format for walden
Commentary Format for Walden:
  • Message: What is Thoreau’s overall message in the passage?
  • Audience/Purpose: What is Thoreau’s intended audience, and what is his purpose in writing to them?
  • Support: How is Thoreau’s overall message communicated? What type of support does he use? Is he persuasive? Why or why not?
    • Examples of support that can be effective and persuasive: anecdotes, examples, testimonials, statistics/numbers, etc.
    • Examples of support that tend to be ineffective and not persuasive: generalizations, stereotypes, one-sided arguments, hyperboles, etc.
  • Organization: Are Thoreau’s ideas well organized or not? How could they be organized differently to better support his overall message?
  • Style: What style of language does Thoreau use in the passage? What are some examples of effective diction he uses? What are some examples of ineffective diction he uses?
  • Context: How does the passage relate to other parts of Walden? How does the passage connect with the Transcendentalist movement?
passages for practice commentary
Passages for Practice Commentary
  • Main paragraph on p. 55:
    • How Thoreau spent his time at Walden.
    • How Thoreau compares with birds.
  • Second full paragraph on p. 57:
    • What Thoreau has to say about cars.
    • Why Thoreau compares cars to horses and drivers to stablers.
opening activity
Opening Activity
  • How do you see Transcendentalism/Thoreau’s ideas exhibited in our time?
  • Make a list or write a paragraph.
chapter 11 higher laws
Chapter 11: “Higher Laws”

What Transcendentalist views do these quotations express?

  • “I found in myself…an instinct toward a higher, or…spiritual life…and another toward a primitive rank and savage one, and I reverence them both” (99).
  • “Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man” (102).
chapter 11 higher laws1
Chapter 11: “Higher Laws”
  • Vegetarianism:
    • “There is something essentially unclean about this diet [of fish] and all flesh” (101).
    • “They [animal foods] were not agreeable to my imagination” (101).
    • “I have no doubt that it is the destiny of the human race…to leave off eating animals” (102).
  • Sobriety:
    • “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man” (102).
chapter 11 higher laws2
Chapter 11: “Higher Laws”
  • Spirit over Body:
    • “A command over our passions, and over the external senses of the body, and good acts, are declared by the Ved to be indispensable in the mind’s approximation of God” [Quoted from the Ved or Vedas, which are sacred texts associated with the Hindu religion] (103).
    • “He is blessed who is assured that the animal is dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established” (104).
  • Purity:
    • Chastity
    • Temperance
    • “Any nobleness begins at once to refine a man’s features, any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them” (105).
chapter 18 conclusion
Chapter 18: “Conclusion”
  • “Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought” (148).
  • Anti- “tradition and conformity” (149)
  • Simplify your life, and the universe will seem less complex (149).
  • Artist parable (150-151): What is the moral?
  • “Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe” (151).
commentary revisions
Commentary Revisions
  • Support:
    • Name specific types of support Thoreau uses or does not use.
    • Paraphrase or quote portions where he uses effective support or is lacking effective support.
  • Organization: Discuss whether Thoreau has the following:
    • Beginning/middle/end
    • Chronological or other logical order of ideas
  • Style: Discuss register!
  • Walden is not a journal. It is may be considered an autobiography or ???